Campaign will work alongside stakeholders and policymakers to protect and expand this critical element of emergency response.
Washington, DC (September 21, 2016) – Save Our Air Medical Resources (S.O.A.R.) – a new national campaign – launched today and is aimed at preserving and protecting access to emergency air medical services for Americans across the country.
In the event of critical illness, severe injury or trauma, emergency air medical services are a critical transport and treatment resource for patients, particularly in rural communities with limited access to hospitals, emergency rooms, or trauma centers. In America today, 115 million (one in three) people live in rural communities where getting emergency care is extremely limited. In fact, approximately 85 million Americans can only reach a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center within one hour, also known as the “Golden Hour,” if they are transported by helicopter. It is often within that first hour following events such as cardiac arrest, stroke, or burn trauma that key differences occur between saving a life and preserving quality of life.
S.O.A.R. spokeswoman Amanda Thayer said, “Many rural hospitals have closed their doors, decreasing the number of emergency rooms across the country. With America’s population aging, the need for emergency air medical services is more important now than ever.”
Communities are at risk of losing access to critical air medical service in large part because Medicare and Medicaid reimburse for each transport at a rate that is far below the actual cost to the given transport provider. Additionally, there are private insurers who use these government rates, which are arbitrary and unreflective of the actual cost of service, as the benchmark for their reimbursement. The result is a massive cost-shifting that falls upon the insured patient population. To take one example, in the state of Pennsylvania, the Medicaid reimbursement rate of $200 per transport does not even cover the cost of fuel for a helicopter transport. These costs are ultimately spread across the entire patient population, pushing up prices for others and straining air medical providers' ability to keep bases open.
“Save Our Air Medical Resources is committed to engaging all relevant stakeholders to reach a fair and durable solution for preserving access to air medical rescue for anyone who needs it,” said Thayer. “Communities across the country deserve to have access to this critical service regardless of their zip code or ability to pay. We are already seeing bases close in various states, especially in rural areas, meaning real people are losing access to this service and need a policy solution immediately.”
Save Our Air Medical Resources will support the legislative efforts underway that would protect –Americans’ access to emergency air medical services by resolving the Medicare reimbursement shortfall, as well as other critical efforts at the federal and state levels that will tackle Medicaid shortfalls. Save Our Air Medical Resources will also work to ensure safe and effective delivery of air medical service by preserving uniform carrier oversight, as written in federal law by the Airline Deregulation Act.
Save Our Air Medical Resources (S.O.A.R.) is a national campaign dedicated to preserving access to emergency air medical services for Americans across the country by providing important education and resources to the public and to key decision and policy makers. Air medical resources are a critical element of emergency response across the country, particularly for people living in rural areas where access to trauma care facilities is often quite limited.